Moving On Is Not Giving Up

business professional

Difference thinking concept.

No business professional in history has ever had a perfect record. Though you only set goals for you and your team with the absolute best of intentions, sometimes you may find yourself coming up short. Everyone from our parents to our teachers to our mentors has told us over and over again to “never give up, never surrender,” when sometimes, you have to do exactly that. The key to coming out all the better for it involves knowing how to identify that moment of surrender when it does arrive, and how to best handle what comes immediately after.

Look for the Signs

The best way to know when to move on from an objective in the world of business involves taking a moment to observe the world around you. How much time have you spent trying to accomplish this task? How much money have you expended trying to do this one particular thing? Would that time, money, and energy be better served if it were reallocated elsewhere within your organization?

At a certain point, you will start to feel diminishing returns. You’ve put your all into something and success is still just as far away as it was when you started. When you have that moment of clarity, the best thing you can do is look deep inside yourself. Do you really believe that you can pull off the challenge in front of you, or do you just hope that you can? If you fall into the latter category, it may be time to move on.

Moving On Doesn’t Mean You’ve Failed

The most important thing to understand about when you should move on from an objective you just can’t quite accomplish has to do with what happens next. If you set a goal for yourself and come up short of that mark, a lot of things have happened -but failure is not one of them.

You can choose to look at it that way if you’d like, but doing so actually limits the power of the moment you have in front of you. Maybe the objective you set wasn’t the right objective in the first place, and everything leading up to this point has been trying to tell you that. It’s a scenario you can see time and time again with some of the most successful companies in the history of business.

Apple, for example, had been set on releasing a smartphone for years – or at least a “smartphone” as per the definition of that term in 2005. Steve Jobs and his team tried, and tried and tried again, and eventually released something called the ROKR E1, a phone designed in conjunction with Motorola that was basically a regular phone with iTunes connectivity built in. The results were disastrous – a rare black mark on Apple’s otherwise top notch record. Jobs had set a goal for himself and had failed to accomplish it the way he wanted.

But instead of saying “Apple and phones are not meant for each other,” he thought differently. He realized that what he really failed to do was find the right hardware company to partner with to achieve this goal. He realized that by handling both the hardware and the software in-house, he could get at what he really wanted in the first place. Apple would go on to release the iPhone less than two years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the End

When you set goals for yourself, you always do so with the best of intentions. Remember that Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Sometimes, you need to know when to try harder and when to try something else. However, moving on doesn’t mean that you’re a failure – it just means that you’ve cleared away the cobwebs, reassessed your priorities, and are ready to redirect that energy into something much more positive and appropriate.

Online Marketing With A Little Friendly Competition

Business People Crossing the Winning Line

Business People Crossing the Winning Line

Sometimes it takes a little friendly competition to get your customers engaged. That’s why it’s so common to see freebies, giveaways, and contests posted online and in retail stores. The trick, of course, is finding a contest that your customers are interested in winning. You know your customers best. Selecting a contest to run can be fun for everyone, especially if you can find a way to get your employees excited, too.

Did You Know?
– New campaigns acquire a 34% audience increase on average
– One-third of contest entrants sign up to receive email updates from brands and partners
– Running a mobile contest increases the number of entrants by eight times
– Statistically, the best duration for a contest campaign is 25-60 days

Contest Ideas

One of the funniest and most entertaining ideas is to host a video contest. People are mad about videos these days, and they love to share them on Facebook and other social media sites. According to Social Media Examiner, one such contest by the snack company Doritos brought an immense return. The contest is called “Crash the Super Bowl” and asks customers to create commercials for their chips. Can you just imagine how much fun customers have creating these commercials? Let’s not even begin to discuss the fun of sharing the commercials on Facebook. So while your company may not be as big or popular as Doritos, you can see how this idea can go viral quickly.

Dunkin’ Donuts uses contests to tell customer stories on Twitter. They asked their customers to post how their coffee fits into their day. As you can imagine, many customers came back with responses to this request. Winners starred in their own Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, and these videos were shared on YouTube and Twitter.

Low-Tech Contests

Not all contests need to include high-tech prizes or competitions such as videos. You can ask your followers to compete in Throw Back Thursday competitions with snapshots of them using your products in a funny way or just sending in ideas for how they use your product or service. The goal is engaging as many current and potential customers in your brand, and just plain having fun. If the contest is easy to participate in and offers a prize that fits your niche audience, then you will get a better return. This method of building an audience and cementing relationships with your customers is a proven success. People just want to have fun, and they are busy and stressed. An excuse to join an engaging contest will get them excited.

Kissmetrics offers several ideas that you can adapt to your company to introduce giveaways and contests to your audience. They offer suggestions on how to set up the contest, and how to optimize it and promote it online. Part of the success of a contest is that it can result in user-generated content that you can use during and after the contest to promote your products and brand. Everyone wins because it is fun, engages your audience, and you can get increased traffic and sales as well as new, original content.

Contests are particularly useful during the stressful holiday season when everyone is shopping and spending money. You can offer free products to customers who win, or gift cards that they can use for holiday gifts.

Why It’s Time To Start Paying Attention To Instagram

thinkstockphotos-509822717When it comes to social media marketing, there are a lot of people who will tell you that there are only two names that you have to concern yourself with: Facebook and Twitter. While the power of these two services as marketing channels is undeniably important, to say that you should ONLY focus on these two platforms is making a grave mistake – particularly concerning where we’re headed.

Case in point: Instagram may not have as many unique users as Facebook or Twitter, but the impressive growth it has shown in a relatively short period of time proves that it is more than worth your effort.

The Importance of Instagram: By the Numbers

Over the last five years alone, Instagram has quickly proven its worth against its larger brethren. Though the social networking site only had 90 million users in its earliest days, that number has since risen to 300 million monthly active users as of 2016.

What’s more than that, Instagram’s user base is incredibly engaged. Not only are these users responsible for sharing over 30 billion (that’s “billion,” with a “B”) photos to date, but more than 70 million photos are being shared every day.

That statistic alone makes Instagram the third most engaged social networking site on planet Earth today. In terms of using social media for effective marketing, “engagement” is pretty much the name of the game.

Instagram is also hugely beneficial for companies that want to increase brand awareness on a global scale. Studies estimate that as of right now, a full 70% of all Instagram users are located OUTSIDE of the United States. To top it off, there will be about 111.6 million American Instagram users by 2019. This means that not only will it allow you to reach a wider audience than ever before, but it will also still allow you to reach those ever-important local markets, too.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic to concern yourself with, though, has more to do with exactly who Instagram allows you to reach. As of 2016, Instagram is used by more Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 years old than any other social network, including Facebook and Twitter. So not only can you reach a larger audience, but you’re also reaching a younger one – particularly important for creating a loyal army of customers now who will be ready and willing to follow you for years to come.

The Bigger Picture

Statistics like these underline a few different things, all of which are crucial in terms of social media marketing. For starters, always be wary of someone who tells you that you only have to focus your efforts in one direction. “Never put all your eggs in one basket” is a mantra that very much applies in terms of social networking, especially because most businesses use at least two social networks every day, often more.

However, the real takeaway from this is that you should always be looking for the next big thing in terms of how and where you’re communicating with your audience. Imagine the results you would see today if you were able to get in on the Facebook revolution from the ground floor. Well, a similar opportunity is currently presenting itself to businesses everywhere in the form of Instagram. Ignoring it now means leaving a lot of money on the table later on.

The Powerful Influence Of Coffee

Coffee

Cup of coffee with coffee beans

Does it ever seem as if you can’t move another step forward without your favorite drink in hand? Coffee fuels many a creative mind in any industry. Whether you are an early morning coffee drinker or need a cup mid-afternoon to reboot your sluggish mind, coffee culture does pair with many of the best developments in business. You might even be the person who has to have a cup of coffee in hand all day long. Here are some coffee thoughts to help you jumpstart your day or keep it going into the wee hours of the morning when you are cramming for a deadline.

Quotes about Coffee

“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee.” – Flash Rosenberg

“Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis — a good hot cup of coffee.” — Alexander King

“Without my morning coffee, I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.” – Johann Sebastian Bach

“I never laugh until I’ve had my coffee.” – Clark Gable

“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move, similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.” – Honore de Balzac

“I don’t really like coffee, she said, but I don’t really like it when my head hits my desk when I fall asleep either.” – Brian Andreas

“Come on, don’t you ever stop and smell the coffee?” – Justina Chen, North of Beautiful

Coffee Influence in Our Culture and Lives

Have you ever sat down and thought about how much coffee has infiltrated our culture and daily lives? Coffee is present at every meeting, event, gathering or celebration. It is a staple in good times and bad and helps stimulate conversation, ease communication, and calm people in the face of the unknown. It is so embedded in our lives that we often take having coffee on hand for granted. Would you ever have a work meeting without coffee for visitors? And don’t you offer every visitor coffee when they arrive?

There is an excellent article on the Scientific American blog (http://bit.ly/2eLnuIQ), “The Culture of Coffee Drinkers,” that discusses the influence of coffee throughout history and in modern times. With the proliferation of Starbucks coffee shops throughout major cities, coffee shops have become meeting places for entrepreneurs, writers, company reps and corporate CEOs who want to meet away from the office. Gourmet coffees have become commonplace.

Using Coffee to Improve Customer and Employee Relationships

It may seem like a “no-brainer,” but coffee can be used as a tool to connect with both employees and customers in your shop or office, and it doesn’t cost much for you to do so. Whether you send your assistant on a coffee run, or have a Keurig in your office for each person to make their own cup, sharing a “cup of joe” will help facilitate discussions about difficult jobs, employee discipline, and new contracts.

A Simple Business Lesson From the Presidential Election

Election 2016

Presidential Election 2016 background

The 2016 Presidential Election is quickly approaching and, once again, it offers a real “teachable moment” in our nation’s history. Instead of focusing on all of the negativity that seems to be surrounding the United States political system, take a decidedly “glass half full” approach instead.

If running for president were like starting a business (and make no mistake – it basically is), both candidates are providing us with an excellent lesson in customer relations and marketing as we speak.

Know Your Audience

Regardless of what you happen to think about the candidates themselves, one thing is for certain: both candidates know the power of speaking the same language as their target audience. Even though the candidates appear opposed on nearly every issue, it’s hard to deny that they’re each having a tremendous amount of success within their own bases and supporters precisely because they each know what to say and how to say it within their audience. Each candidate regularly draws crowds in the tens of thousands from their most fervent supporters.

However, both candidates are relatively controversial outside of their base supporters, to the point where if they hadn’t made an effort to master and hone these unique voices, they would likely be having trouble establishing momentum at this point. Both of them are still very much “in the game” (against all odds) almost entirely because they’ve taken the time to learn exactly what they need to say and do to build momentum among their own core group of followers.

You Have to Move Past Your Audience at Some Point

Perhaps the biggest lesson that we can learn from the 2016 Presidential Election, however, has to do with growth. While keeping a loyal, enthusiastic customer base is always important, this is only a means to an end – it isn’t the end itself. If you want to continue to grow and evolve as a business, you need to be looking for ways to bring new people into that base and to allow that base to grow. A failure to do so will result in the type of stagnation that will find you spinning your proverbial wheels.

This lesson can be seen throughout the election process as well. Often you’ll see one candidate making a concerted effort to bring as many new voters into their camp as possible, while another seems to be focused on maintaining their existing voters – which can be a problem when you’re running the “business” of a political career.

The raw potential of a single customer for a presidential candidate is inherently limited. Regardless of how passionate someone is, or how much they like you, or how much they’re willing to show their support for you, they can still only vote a single time. Zeroing in on your original, core group of customers with a laser-sharp focus may be an excellent way to make sure they stick around long enough to make that sale (or vote in November), but it doesn’t help you at all regarding expansion.

If you’re so focused on maintaining this core group of followers that you’re willing to alienate everyone who exists outside of your bubble, ultimately you might achieve massive short-term gains, but it’ll be at the expense of your long-term goals. Never be so focused on one group of customers that you’re willing to push another (possibly larger) one away. Understand that ALL businesses require a steady stream of NEW customers to guarantee the growth they need to survive for years to come.

What’s in a Leaf?

Leaf

Autumn Leaves Falling Down

If you enjoy watching the leaves float down during the fall season, you probably already know that just like snowflakes, each tree’s leaves are individual and unique. Unlike snowflakes, though, leaves can tell you from which tree they came, and fortunately, there are many resources available to you for identifying trees by their leaves.

Knowing more about your surroundings is important, and it can apply well in a work situation.

Discovery

An excellent resource for identifying trees will take you on a journey of discovery: from the color and shape of the leaf to how many points it has, all to learn more about the tree it came from. It might go on to identify the type of bark, the size of the tree, and more to help you determine which tree you are looking at.

There are many ways you can apply this strategy of discovery with your customers, especially if they are repeat customers. If you think about each customer as if they were an onion with many layers to uncover, you can view each contact with them as an opportunity to peel away one more layer.

Learning

Your customers are individuals with unique personalities, family issues, work challenges, and styles of doing business. You can work on strategies to uncover more information about your customers to help cement a relationship with them. Customers who like you and enjoy your relationship are more willing to continue to do business with you and become loyal repeat customers.

Depth

Depending on how you maintain your customer records, there are different methods of collecting and retaining information about your clients. In an article, “7 Ways to (Really) Know Your Customers” (http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4890-customer-engagement-tips.html), it offers several suggestions for small businesses to get to know their customers better including gleaning social data from sites such as Facebook.

By getting to know your customers better, you can anticipate when they will be spending, what triggers a purchase, and how you can be proactive in contacting them for their triggers. As you learn more about your customer, you can apply your knowledge to help them better manage their relationship with you, potentially saving them money in the long run. For instance, if they are buying their products when needed, but you see a pattern, you can sell them a larger bulk amount on a periodic basis saving them money and securing the purchase for your account.

Knowledge

Knowing your customers will allow you to separate the A and B level of customers from the one-time business customers. As you develop your relationships with your clients, you can grow your business in depth. Then, using similar methods, seek out new business and begin the process again.

Tips for Nurturing Existing Sales Leads

Sales Leads

Things to clarify

While bringing new leads into your business is always important, sometimes it’s not the “be all, end all” solution to your bottom line. Remember that according to most statistics, an incredible 90% of new prospects are merely in the “browsing” stage of their relationship with your company – meaning that they’re not quite ready to buy. Out of every new lead you bring into your business, only 5% are ready to pull the trigger – if that. While you may think this means you have to work harder to bring in a higher volume of leads (this is a numbers game, after all), try a different approach. Don’t forget about the leads you already have.

If you want to get better at nurturing your existing sales leads to get them ready for that ever-important purchase, you’ll want to keep a few key things in mind.

You Are an Authority. Don’t Forget This

When people think about nurturing leads, one of the qualities required for a solid relationship is one of trust. Never forget that you’re not just selling a product or service – you’re also selling yourself. People are a lot more willing to spend money with your company if they trust that you know what you’re talking about.

Don’t JUST hit your prospects with sales materials over and over again; this isn’t lead nurturing, this is badgering. Instead, try sending helpful, well-researched content in their direction as well. You need to be focused on establishing that you know what you’re talking about. People aren’t just going to take your word for it. When you spend time positioning yourself as an authority and focusing on the other qualities of lead nurturing as well, people will begin to see you as the solution to their problem when they do feel comfortable enough to buy.

Don’t Just Make Contact When You Have Something to Sell

One of the biggest mistakes that a businessperson can make involves only remembering that a lead exists when you need to increase your sales numbers for a particular quarter. Nurturing leads requires you to keep in mind that you’re talking about more than just line items on a balance sheet – prospects are living, breathing people who don’t like to feel used.

As a result, make an effort to reach out to a few of your potentially higher quality leads even if you’re not pushing a new product or service. Thanks to the power of social media, this is easier than ever. Even a quick Facebook message on a birthday or at Christmas will go a long way towards strengthening (and increasing the ultimate value of) your relationship.
These are just a few of the many reasons why it is so important to nurture your existing sales leads. None of this is to say that you should stop focusing on bringing in new leads and turn 100% of your attention on existing ones. As always, success requires you to strike a delicate balance between the two. But if you let the majority of your existing leads lay dormant for too long, you’re burning a lot more than just potentially important relationships. You’re leaving a lot of money on the table at the same time.

Applying Life Lessons to Small Business

Life Lessons

Close-up of child’s abacus in classroom.

Parents to teenagers and young adults know that there are some lessons that only living life can bring us. Life lessons learned through living life are valuable, and they are hard to teach to teenagers because teens think they have the answers to everything. However, experience can offer up gems of information about what is truly important in life and how to enjoy each moment as it comes.

What are some of the lessons that life teaches us?

1. Life isn’t fair, but it is still good.

How many times have you heard your child or teenager say to you, “but that isn’t fair!” The truth is that life isn’t fair. Life happens as it happens, and you need to learn to roll with the ups and downs and continue on your journey. If you can take each moment as it comes, then you can appreciate the good, survive the bad, and continue on your way.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

Many of the big decisions in life can be broken down into small steps that are easy to accomplish. Each time you have a big project or decision in front of you, you can make it easier to understand by chopping it up into small tasks. Then, do each task one at a time until you complete the whole.

3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

Humor makes life more tolerable both in good and bad times. If you can learn to live life with humor, including your own foibles, you will relax more and stay healthier. Laughter is a stress-reducer and can help keep your craziest days sane.

4. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

Since nothing ever goes exactly as we plan, it is important to prepare for contingencies. If you are ready for the worst, then you will be able to move in various directions when reality hits. You can plan to the Nth degree, but once your event or project is in motion, you cannot stop it. Going with the flow and learning to be flexible will keep you on top of the situation (as much as that is possible).

Applying Life’s Lessons to Business

Running a small business is fraught with surprises, changes, and learning curves. Many of the lessons that apply to life, in general, can be applied to running a business. Small business owners are responsible for everything that occurs in the whole of their business, and it is nearly impossible to predict what each day as a small business owner will bring.

If you can enjoy each part of your business, sharing what you know with your customers and employees, and reaching out to your community to connect with people through your business, you will enjoy life’s journey. Business isn’t always fair, but if you put your heart into it, it will be good. Your customers and employees will see how you run your business, and they will respond. When in doubt, just take the first small step, and you will be able to accomplish whatever goals you set for your business. Don’t take your business so seriously. No one else does. Run your business with a good sense of humor and your customers and staff will join in laughing with you. Overprepare, and then let your business take you where it will. You will discover new dimensions to your niche that you may never have known before and you will have an exciting, fulfilling journey.

Don’t Make the Internet Angry: Important Considerations About Using Social Media as a Marketing Platform

upset sad skeptical woman talking texting on phone

upset sad skeptical woman talking texting on phone

As a sheer marketing platform, social media brings with it a host of advantages that can’t be ignored. According to one recent study, there will be 2.5 billion unique users worldwide on social media networks by as soon as 2018. Right now, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have the potential to effortlessly connect you with approximately 70% of the United States population.
However, social media also presents some challenges, too – particularly if you insist on taking the “tried but true” marketing techniques of yesteryear and trying to cram them into a social media-shaped box. If you want to unlock the real potential that only social media can provide, you’ll need to keep a few key things in mind.

Different Users Are Looking for Different Things

One of the most important things to understand about social media networks is that they aren’t all created equally. Someone who uses Facebook isn’t looking for the same TYPE of message that someone who uses Twitter is. The same goes for LinkedIn, Pinterest and more. While they’re all “social networks” in the strictest sense of the definition, they all have their unique strengths.

Twitter users are looking for shorter, bite-sized bits of information while Facebook users prefer longer, more thoughtful posts. A piece of marketing collateral that you designed for Facebook won’t necessarily play well to Twitter’s audience, and vice versa. You have to understand the channel you’re using, play to its strengths, and adapt across the board. Even if you’re presenting the same message on each network, you have to make sure that the delivery mechanism is optimized for the platform you’re working with at the time.

Think Young

One of the most mission critical things to understand as you move forward with social media is the fact that 90% of young adults today (defined as people between the ages of 18 and 29) are social media users. Not only that, but a third of them say that social media is one of their preferred methods for communicating with businesses in general.

In essence, this means that if you want to create the type of loyal following that will carry your business far NOW, you have to start playing to their habits on social media today. These younger users will continue to age, and if you can hook them young via social media, you’ve likely hooked them forever.

Social Media Demands Honesty

Finally, one of the most important considerations about using social media as a marketing platform has to do with what happens if things go wrong. Because of the intimate, constant connection that social media generates, anything less than honesty is not welcome. If customers have a concern, address it. If a legitimate problem arises, do what you can to make it right. If something bad happens with your company – be i

t a negative run-in with a customer to a full-fledged PR disaster – don’t just try to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened.

Gabe Newell, a former Microsoft employee and founder of Valve Corporation, said it best when he said “One of the things we learned pretty early on is ‘Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the internet – because they will catch you. They will deconstruct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity.”

In essence, this means that while social media can bring a lot of positive attributes to your company regarding the sheer marketing power it offers, it is also a slippery slope. If you want to use social media to develop meaningful, lasting relationships with your target audience, you can’t assume this is a given. You have to earn it, and you can never take it for granted.

Goals are Not Just for Sports

Goals are Not Just for Sports

Business man holding up his arms in victory with a blue office building in the background

In school and at work, we are often told to create goals and to strive to reach them. After all, achieving our goals is a measure of success and a method of how to pursue our dreams. Goals are a big part of managing marketing and sales in most companies, and they are the markers of who is producing and who is not. Not everyone has the same training in hitting goals, however, nor do goals create motivation for everyone.

What Can We Learn from Goals in Sports?

The easiest way to demonstrate goal setting is to look at sports. Every sport has a goal to reach to win the game. Goals can be achieved through hitting a ball out of the park, into a net, throwing it into a basket, or even by racing to a finish line. Most of these goals are made from years of preparation, training, and study of the game they represent. No athlete achieves success without that training, no matter how easy the achievement looks to the spectator. Athletes work through injuries, bad days, failures, and practice. Achievements are the culmination of hours and hours of work.

Obstacles

The point of a goal is to help you achieve success even with the stumbling blocks and barriers that stand before you. A goal is a guiding light to keep you on your journey or path. Henry Ford said that “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” The obstacles will always be there to keep you from making the goal. You may not have the experience, the education, or the opportunities that your peers or competitors do, however, you can still achieve your goals if you are willing to keep working towards them.

Applying Goals to Business

Like sports, business goals can be short-term or long-term. For instance, you can have a goal of getting ten items completed by the end of your work day. That is a short-term goal. A long-term goal is establishing 100 new customer accounts by the end of the year. An even longer-term goal is becoming the top business in your category in the city by 2020. The key is establishing goals that are reachable, measurable, and trackable so that you can follow your progress as you work towards the goal.

While wanting to be the best business in the city by 2020 is possible, a more reasonable goal is to triple your income from your business by 2020. With this goal, you can create the steps that will lead to the goal, and measure your progress as you continue your journey. You will know when you hit your goal by the numbers you achieve without any arbitrary or ambiguous measurements.

How to Keep Your Goals in the Forefront of Your Mind

Weekly meetings to keep everyone on your team on track may be boring, but their function is to make sure the team members are still striving towards group goals. You can do the same with your personal business goals. Remind yourself daily what goals you are working towards and what you need to accomplish that day to move in the right direction. Remember that keeping your eyes on the goal will help to remove the obstacles.